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Week In Review: Netflix’s Shonda Gamble Pays Off, VIZIO Rolls Out Frequency Capping

1. Netflix’s Shonda Gamble Pays Off

When Netflix stole superstar showrunner Shonda Rhimes away from ABC for $100 million+, they were taking a slight gamble: Rhimes’ hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal were the sorts of well-made mainstream shows that did well on network TV but lacked the somewhat artsier sensibility of streaming.

That gamble seems to have paid off though, as Nielsen is confirming that Rhimes’s initial outing, the period drama Bridgerton, is indeed Netflix’s biggest first 28-day premiere, with over 1 billion minutes streamed during those initial 28 days.

Why It Matters

Streaming shows tend to be aimed at a more sophisticated audience, with nuanced anti-heroes and the sort of subtle plot twists that can read as “confusing” to a more mass audience.

This is understandable as the initial audience for streaming was more affluent, more educated, more tech savvy and looking for what many described as “HBO-style shows.” The output was heralded as the “second golden age of television” and as a result actors like Meryl Streep and directors like Martin Scorcese no longer had to fear that any association with TV would be seen as blot of their careers, and streaming shows began to clean up at the Golden Globes and the Emmys.

All well and good, except large segments of the potential audience did not regard award-winning shows like Orange Is The New Black, Transparent, The Handmaid’s Tale or even Fleabag as a new golden age. They regarded them as boring, confusing, and overly dense, the sorts of shows you had to think about in order to enjoy them.

That’s clearly been on Netflix’s mind as they sought to expand their audience beyond those initial 40 million or so early adopters and into the mass audience. Hence remakes of Full House and more mainstream (e.g., network-like) series like Cobra Kai. 

The gamble on Rhimes (and other notable network TV showrunners like Ryan Murphy of Glee fame) was that they could create programming that bridged the gap by appealing to audiences who ate up series like The Crown and The Queen’s Gambit while also drawing in viewers who were avid fans of Rhimes ABC-era hits like Scandal.

As the ratings seem to indicate, it was a gamble that paid off, as Bridgerton does indeed seem to be appealing to both audiences.

This is key, because right now, there’s little to distinguish the programming available on any of the Flixes that aren’t Disney+ and Discovery+ —all of their original series seem to fall into the “HBO-like” category, the sort of prorgamming that potentially wins awards with its appeal to the upper end of the audience, but doesn’t bring in the sort of mass audience these services need to survive.

Caveat Flixus.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re one of the aforementioned Flixes, e.g., one whose name does not start with the letter “D”, you need to consider how to market yourself to the sort of people you’re unlikely to encounter at Erewhon. For Peacock, that’s meant a deal with wrestling’s WWE, but everyone else also needs to start thinking about programming that could just as easily find a home on the broadcast networks you’re trying to replace. 

If you’re one of those broadcast or cable networks, and you already have a Flix in place, you need to figure out why you’re creating two sets of programming, one for linear and one for streaming, as if you were programming for two distinct audiences and maybe just program for one.

If, like me, you’ve really enjoyed the sort of programming that made up the second golden age of television, don’t despair. The Flixes will still be able to give us more of that type of programming too—the beauty of streaming and the lack of any sort of time restriction is that programming decisions are no longer “either/or” decisions. 

At least for now.

2. VIZIO Rolls Out Frequency Capping

There’s a sizable ecosystem forming around smart TV OEMs like Vizio, LG and Samsung, who, in addition to owning their own hardware, have rolled out their own FASTs, their own ad sales units and their own measurement systems. 

Thus, it’s not surprising to hear that Vizio Ads has rolled out something called Universal Frequency Control to deal with one of streaming’s most vexing problems—viewers getting hit with the same ads over and over and over and over again.

With Universal Frequency Control, advertisers have the ability to limit the number of times a specific piece of ad creative shows up on any given Vizio TV, regardless of whether that ad is served up on linear, VOD or streaming. Caps can be set on a daily, weekly or monthly basis on a per-TV basis. 

Why It Matters

Streaming ads are difficult to cap because they’re sold via a wide array of sources: the app itself, DSPs, SSPs and the streaming device’s ad sales teams. While individual apps like Tubi have introduced capping solutions, viewers tend to move between apps and between streaming and linear, making any sort of universal capping hard to implement.

That’s a problem because more and better data has made it easier for advertisers to target viewers within a specific segment, and so someone at the end of an auto lease might find themselves deluged by ads from car manufacturers everywhere they turn.

And while repetition can have its benefits, countless studies have shown that there’s a wearout point at which exposure to an ad becomes counterproductive.

By using the ACR data collected by its Inscape unit, Vizio is able to measure ad frequency regardless of the source, thus ensuring that viewers don’t get assaulted even if they switch inputs.

It’s yet another advantage smart TV OEMs have by dint of owning both the hardware and the software.

What You Need To Do About It

 If you’re an advertiser and you’re doing a lot of targeting, then you need to get in touch with Vizio Ads ASAP, because nothing turns off consumers faster than seeing the same ad dozens of times.

If you’re a programmer, you can thank Vizio too, because often as not, the consumer is going to blame you when they see the same ad over and over again.

If you’re one of the other smart TV OEMs, I’m thinking you have something similar in the works and if you don’t, you should.

If you’re a consumer with a Vizio TV, rejoice, because your experience is about to get considerably more enjoyable.